Brunswick, GA – Two of the men serving life prison sentences in Georgia for the murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery were again sentenced to life terms on Monday, this time on federal hate crime charges.
U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood sentenced 36-year-old Travis McMichael, the defendant who actually shot Arbery multiple times, and his father, 66-year-old Gregory McMichael, to life in prison for the hate crimes, NBC News reported.
Wood also sentenced the father and son duo to 20 years on attempted kidnapping charges, CNN reported.
The judge gave Travis McMichael and Gregory McMichael another 10 years and seven years, respectively, on weapons charges.
Wood also ruled that the McMichaels will serve their federal time concurrently with their state sentences – life without the possibility of parole – in a Georgia state prison.
Both men were already sentenced to life without parole by the state and are serving time in a Georgia prison.
The judge denied defense attorneys’ requests to allow the McMichaels to serve their time in a federal prison facility for their safety, NBC News reported.
Amy Lee Copeland, attorney for the gunman, told Wood that Travis McMichael had received “hundreds of threats” and would probably be killed in state custody.
Copeland told the judge that “sending him to state prison is a back-door death penalty. If he goes to state prison, he won’t survive,” according to NBC News.
But Wood kept with the policy that the first entity to convict is where the prisoner serves his time and said that Travis McMichael has to spend the rest of his life in a Georgia prison, not a federal facility.
Arbery’s family members didn’t want any of the men convicted of his death to be allowed to serve time in a federal facility, NBC News reported.
The federal prison system is considered less dangerous and more comfortable than the state prison system and his family has said they want Arbery’s killers to suffer.
Wood sentenced 52-year-old William “Roddie” Bryan, who helped chase Arbery and filmed his murder, to a lesser sentence of 35 years, CNN reported.
Bryan is already sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in Georgia and will serve his federal sentence concurrently.
The police report said the incident began when Arbery jogged past the McMichaels’ home on Feb. 23, 2020, the Associated Press reported.
The McMichaels told police afterwards that they thought Arbery was the suspect in several recent burglaries in the neighborhood, so they armed themselves and followed him.
The men jumped in their pickup truck and followed the 25 year old as he ran through the neighborhood.
Bryan, their neighbor, jumped in his own pickup truck and joined in, according to CBS News.
Special Prosecutor Jesse Evans said the men effectively boxed in Arbery with their pickup trucks, forcing the encounter that followed.
Evans said Arbery was “was chased, hunted down and ultimately executed,” CBS News reported.
The video filmed by Bryan showed Arbery running up the middle of the residential road toward a white pickup truck that was stopped in the road ahead of him.
In the video, Arbery dodged to the right onto the grass to go around the stopped truck.
Yelling could be heard in the video for a second, and then a gunshot, just before Arbery reappeared in front of the truck.
The video showed Gregory McMichael stood up in the bed of the pickup with a gun in his hand.
Arbery appeared to engage Travis McMichael, who was holding a pump-action shotgun, in a struggle for the gun that drifted off camera for a split second.
While they were off-camera, Travis McMichael’s gun went off – a puff of smoke could be seen on the left side of the screen that indicated where the gunshot came from.
The video showed Arbery and Travis McMichael veered back into the frame, still engaged in a struggle over the gun, and then there was a third gunshot.
Arbery took a couple steps away from Travis McMichael and collapsed face-first in the middle of the street, the video showed.
None of the three men involved in Arbery’s death were arrested at the scene, nor in the several months that immediately followed.
Two Glynn County commissioners revealed in May of last year that now-former Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson’s office refused to allow police to arrest the McMichaels shortly after the Feb. 23, 2020 shooting death of Arbery, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“The police at the scene went to her, saying they were ready to arrest both of them,” Glynn County Commissioner Allen Booker said. “These were the police at the scene who had done the investigation. She shut them down to protect her friend McMichael.”
The elder McMichael had been an investigator in Johnson’s office for several years prior to his recent retirement.
Eventually Johnson recused herself and the case bounced from prosecutor to prosecutor due to conflicts of interest for months before Bryan released the video of the shooting which inspired protests and resulted in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) taking over the investigation.
GBI announced the arrests of the McMichaels for murder less than three days after they took over the case and Bryan was also arrested on murder charges soon after.
In September of 2021, Johnson was indicted on charges of obstruction of a peace officer and violation of oath of a public officer in connection with her actions in the aftermath of the shooting.